Creativity in PR is like tacos and hot sauce. When the creativity, or hot sauce, is missing your result can be generic and forgettable. Your work will suffice, but it won’t win any prizes or audience love.
Communications and public relations pros are expected to be creative. One reason you’ve been hired by a client or organization is to bring fresh ideas and perspectives.
While interviewing for communications positions, I’ve been asked to explain my creative process, how I help create a creative working environment, or to share a campaign that represents my creativity.
On the job, creative problem solving is challenged when faced with client problems or completing projects with vague information.
Creative communications mean capturing the attention of different audience groups with a captivating story.
It’s not hard to grasp the importance of creativity in PR. What is hard to grasp is the elusive state of being creative and applying it in a strategic, results oriented manner.
Personal Struggle With Creativity
There are people out there that flaunt their creativity like a shiny new haircut.
I am not one of those people.
I question my creative ability. I hesitate to define myself as creative.
I hesitate because I don’t want to be called a fraud.
I hesitate because I start thinking of the millions of other souls blissfully gallivanting the planet graced by creative genius (at least that’s how I picture them).
After reading “Big Magic: Creative Life Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert my mentality has done a 180° turn. She claims, “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.”
We all have the ability to be creative. We can choose to listen to the fear of failure or embrace the uncertainty and dive right in.
Change Your Inner Dialogue
Gilbert says by arguing for our limitations, we will keep them. Read that one more time.
I’ve committed to changing my inner dialogue. Just by telling myself “I am creative,” I’ve been able to approach work projects with a lighter heart.
I no longer feel anxious about lacking the creative intelligence to produce a stellar project. I approach my work with revived curiosity and energy.
By quieting your inner critic, I believe you too will give yourself the freedom to explore new approaches and communication techniques.
Navigating Business Constraints and Failure
Beyond the self, working for a client or a boss can temper creativity. You’ve been handed budgets, timelines, and specific metrics, which can leave little room for experimentation.
Learning how to navigate these constraints, while fostering the creative process, is necessary if we want to produce remarkable content.
The folks at Pixar have mastered this balance. They invite failure and it’s necessary costs. In fact, they refer to the creative process as a “necessary investment.” By embracing the affiliated risks, and potential flops, employees are encouraged to test creative bounds.
In your own PR business, having a product launch fall flat is a real fear and a financial cushion may not exist.
Ed Catmull the president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios and author of “Creativity, Inc.” says, “Fear makes people reach for certainty and stability, neither of which guarantees the safety they imply.”
So, do you want to be a known as production mill or an insightful business partner?
Exploring Creativity Beyond Work
To truly flex your creative muscles, integrate creativity into life beyond work. This could be gardening, cooking, playing guitar, dancing, doodling, or whatever brings you happiness.
By exploring your personal creative interests, you can rekindle your childhood imagination and curiosity. I believe this is cathartic and contributes to overall life satisfaction.
At least from personal experience, I know when it’s been too long since my last cooking experiment or writing session, I feel like I’m not living up to my potential.
Pursue and Persist
Even if we’ve embraced creativity and uncertainty, there are days when our mind seems to slow and refuses to produce a unique thought.
These are the days when the blissful dancing creative stops dead in his or her tracks.
A common lesson in “Big Magic” and “Creativity, Inc.” is the requirement to pursue and persist.
Expecting creativity to strike whenever you sit down to work is a fallacy.
Daily action, despite the lows, is what keeps you on the creative journey.
In a letter to her colleagues at Pixar, an animator wrote, “The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair…PERSIST. PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision…”
Similarly, Gilbert urges her readers to not quit too soon.
“Work with all your heart, because – I promise – if you show up for your work day after day after day, you might just get lucky enough some random morning to burst into bloom.”
Later in the book, she tempers this persistence with the recommendation to “write from a place of trickster energy, not martyrdom.” What a fun way to approach work, and life!
Expressing creativity certainly isn’t easy, but it is necessary for the pursuit of producing something remarkable.
Creative insecurities and wrestling with the creative process is a reality for many, if not all of us in the communications field. But, with practice and persistence, we can create personal strategies to help us slog through the rough patches.
How have you successfully integrated creativity into your life and work? I’d love to hear your strategies. Leave a note in the comments and let’s continue the conversation.